Texas School District Cancels Prayer Event Amid Backlash

A school district in Texas recently canceled a three-week prayer event amid backlash from an atheist group in Wisconsin.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett, listing their complaints regarding the prayer event.

“The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism,” the organization’s website read.

“Incorporated in 1978 in Wisconsin, FFRF is the nation’s largest freethought association with more than 39,000 freethinkers: atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree,” the website reads.

“FFRF is a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). All dues and contributions are deductible for income tax purposes,” the organization adds.

The letter and the organization who signed it, called for the event to come to an early close.

The Texas district had organized a prayer event that had been announced on Facebook, consisting of a three-week prayer session beginning on July 26, 2023. The event would come to an end on Aug. 16, 2023 – the first day of school in Texas.

FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow stated her beliefs in opposing the prayer event.

“By promoting prayer, the district sends an official message that excludes all nonreligious district students and community members,” Lawrence said, adding that the district “is displaying clear favoritism towards religion over nonreligion by promoting and encouraging prayer.”

According to the FFRF, public schools cannot encourage one religion over another or influence students in practicing such religions.

The organization argued that by promoting and encouraging prayer, the Texas district was showing bias toward religion over secularism. FFRF noted that the prayer event would exclude over 30% of secular individuals within the district.

On Facebook, Lawrence, citing an email response from the district superintendent, confirmed that the event had been canceled.

“We’re glad that school officials are taking action to uphold constitutional neutrality,” Lawrence said. “A school district does not need to pray for their students and staff. It needs to focus instead on providing a secular education free from religious indoctrination.”

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